Naomi Osaka predicted she will strike up an exciting rivalry with American teen sensation Coco Gauff as part of a changing landscape at the top of women’s tennis. Defending US Open champion Osaka outclassed the tearful 15-year-old 6-3, 6-0 in just over an hour Saturday to advance to the fourth round in New York.
But world number one Osaka, also the reigning Australian Open champion, anticipates the pair will wage battles on the court for years to come. “I feel like of course we’re going to play multiple times in the future. She’s so young. That’s definitely going to happen,” Osaka said.
“She seems very intelligent, so I think there’s automatically things that she’s going to change the next time that we play. I’m not necessarily looking forward to that, but I think it will be fun for you guys to watch.”
Gauff, who made a run to the Wimbledon fourth round last month on her Grand Slam debut, was seeking to become the youngest player to make the US Open last 16 since Russia’s Anna Kournikova in 1996.
Osaka has struggled to replicate her top form since her Melbourne triumph in January, but the Japanese star delivered a masterclass on and off the court against Gauff. The emotional clash was followed by tearful on-court interviews, Osaka asking a reluctant Gauff to join her with the microphone as they met at the net.
“It was kind of instinctive because when I shook her hand, I saw that she was kind of tearing up a little. Then it reminded me how young she was,” Osaka said. “I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad. I want her to, like, be aware that she’s accomplished so much and she’s still so young.” She added: “I was just thinking it would be nice for her to address the people that came and watched her play. They were cheering for her.”
Osaka goes on to face Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic for a place in the quarter-finals, and the top seed believes she is growing stronger the deeper she progresses at Flushing Meadows.
“The thing with me, though, is I get better as the tournament goes on,” Osaka said. “It’s not even a skill sort of thing, it’s just I trust myself more.”
Asked to assess her current level, she replied: “I mean, the last two times I was in the round of 16, I won it, if that answers — I don’t want to say that. That’s bold. “I’m just out here trying my best. I’m just going with the flow at this rate. I’ve never defended a Grand Slam before.”
“I was just happy throughout this entire match,” she continued. “I think I kept a very high level of focus. I honestly think it’s been since Australian Open finals that I was that focused and I was fighting that hard for every point.